Sunday, November 15, 2009

Holiday Gifts That Need No Batteries

Not sure what to get the person or child who has everything? Why not make a donation to the Children’s Museum of St. Johns in their name?

Your contribution will support the Museum's start-up costs and help develop traveling exhibits and in-school enrichment programs – a vital part of making the museum a reality!

The Children’s Museum of St. Johns is a non-profit organization so donations and membership fees are eligible for tax deduction.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Letter from the President

Dear Friends,

Over the summer, my kids and I had the opportunity to visit several children's museums while traveling through North Carolina and Virginia. As they rolled golf balls down hills of varying inclines and explored a replica of a child's home in Japan, they learned about physics and other cultures in a way that is both memorable and meaningful.

I returned home to Florida more convinced than ever that St. Johns County needs a children's museum! And I am pleased to report that we are right on track toward realizing this vision.

You will recall that last spring, we hired a strategic planning consultant to assist us in conducting a "community needs assessment" to inform the creation of our own strategic plan. In addition to reaching out to local leaders in individual interviews and focus groups, we engaged nearly 550 people in an online survey gathering feedback on things like subject matter for exhibits, target age range, and amenities to offer in a children's museum. This information has been critical as we move forward.

Over the summer, our Board of Directors and Presidential Advisory Council members met to begin the process of creating a strategic plan, which is currently in draft form and will be finalized in November. Organized around four major goal areas - exhibits and education, facility, marketing and organizational development - the plan is both aggressive and realistic, with the goal of opening a museum by July 2012. We will post the strategic plan on our website once it is in final form.

If you've been waiting for an opportunity to become involved with the Children's Museum of St. Johns, now is the time! Realizing the vision of a children's museum in St. Johns County will require many, many resources - time, money, ideas, energy, and enthusiasm! We welcome your involvement and support; visit to become a Founding Member of CMSJ and download a volunteer application.

I look forward to keeping you apprised of our progress during the year ahead, and to working with you and others in our community to bring the power of learning through play to all of our children.

All the Best,

Susan Connor

Monday, October 12, 2009

"Helping Hands" Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast

On April 29, the Children’s Museum of St. Johns honored its “Helping Hands” volunteers as part of national volunteer appreciation month. CMSJ is an all-volunteer organization and honored its “Helping Hands” with a presentation and buffet breakfast hosted by La Cocina International Restaurant. More than 25 volunteers at...tended the event, including board and committee members, members of the newly formed Presidential Advisory Council, and exhibit and event volunteers. The presentation reflected upon accomplishments since the organization was founded in February of 2007 and looked forward to its ultimate goal—becoming a bricks and mortar institution serving and enhancing the community within the next 2 years.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

St. Augustine Sleuths Debut at Florida Heritage Book Festival

On Saturday, September 12, the Children’s Museum of St. Johns (CMSJ) debuted two components of its newest hands-on, interactive exhibit for children at the Florida Heritage Book Festival. CMSJ presented St. Augustine Sleuths, an interactive, educational exhibit based on what it was like to be a child during different periods in St. Augustine’s history. Researched and developed by a team of educators, designers, and artists, this exhibit allows children to step back in time and experience firsthand our Ancient City’s past!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Meet Our Presidential Advisory Council Members!

The Children’s Museum of St. Johns (CMSJ) announced the members of its newly formed Presidential Advisory Council this week. These community leaders have agreed to play an integral role in helping the Museum to achieve its over-arching goal: to become a bricks-and-mortar institution in the next 3 to 5 years.

“The Presidential Advisory Council (PAC) is comprised of individuals with the knowledge, influence, and personal commitment to help make the museum a reality for both St. Johns County residents and visitors,” explains CMSJ president Jennifer Koppman.

CMSJ board member, Elena Laguardia, serves as the Presidential Advisory Council’s liaison. She says the council will meet formally two times a year and will also participate in a comprehensive strategic planning process the Children’s Museum of St. Johns is launching in April.

“This is an amazing group. The board of the Children’s Museum of St. Johns is very proud to have these talented individuals join our effort,” says Laguardia. “Collectively, they offer invaluable experience, knowledge, and expertise in the business community as well as not-for-profit sector. We look forward to working with them to establish St. Johns County’s first children’s museum.” Laguardia went on to explain the need for a Children’s Museum in St. Johns County, citing recent statistics: The number of children ages 0-4 in St. Johns County grew more than 20% between 1990 and 2000, a critical trend that continues into the future with a projected growth rate of more than 25% between 2005 and 2010.*

“This rapid increase of families with young children has quickly outpaced the resources, both educational and cultural, that are currently available in our area,” says Laguardia. “The Children’s Museum of St. Johns would meet this important need by providing an interactive, educational environment for children, along with their families and teachers, where they can pretend, create, and learn at their own pace. By creating a unique place where young children and their families can come together to learn and enjoy themselves, CMSJ will help to attract the 6.5 million visitors that come to St. Johns County each year.**”

* St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Council, Demographics Now 2005

** St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Council, Market Profile

Meet the members of the Presidential Advisory Council!

S. Katherine Batenhorst is a speech-language pathologist who works at Brooks Rehabilitation Center and with the St. Johns County School System. She started her career at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind where she spent 10 years. A native of St. Augustine, she devotes her time to a wide range of community causes, including the Rotary Club of St. Augustine, the Junior Service League (past president), the St. Augustine Area Tri Delta Alumnae chapter (president), and the Class of 2007 Leadership of St. Johns (member). Additionally she has served as volunteer and advisory board member to Community Hospice of Northeast Florida, as board member to the St. Augustine High/Ketterlinus High Alumni Association, as board member to Kids Bridge, as member of the Dianthus Garden Club, and fundraising/event planning volunteer for both the Mayor’s Holiday Lighting Party and The Arc of the St. Johns/Therapeutic Learning Center.

Judy Burnett, retired professor from Florida Community College in Jacksonville, draws from her 30-plus years of business and education teaching experience in her support of the Children’s Museum. She earned master’s degrees in business and education from University of Southern Mississippi and the University of North Florida. She has enjoyed working with the Florida National Guard, both with the programs supporting families as well as alongside her husband of 40 years, Doug Burnett, the Adjutant General of Florida. Her interests include reading, boating, walking the family dog, and, above all, being with her family and grandchildren.

Christine M. Chapman, philanthropist and student, has devoted herself to many organizations in support of St. Augustine. She earned both her master’s degree in educational leadership and bachelor’s degree in special education K-12 from University of North Florida. A longtime resident of St. Johns County, she worked for 20 years at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in both the classroom and administration. Her community experience includes work with the Junior Service League of St. Augustine (past president), Kids Bridge (past president), the Kids Bridge Board (current member), Community Hospice of Northeast Florida (current advisory board member), and St. Augustine Truck Safety Coalition (member). Her interests include fundraising and law, as well as reading, decorating, re-design, renovation, and snow skiing.

Marguerite F. DiBella is currently the vice president for quality improvement at Flagler Hospital. A retired registered nurse, she has extensive experience and education in nursing and hospital administration, holding master’s degrees in nursing administration from Seton Hall University and business administration from Harvard University. She has served as chairman of Flagler Health Care Foundation and a member of the Flagler Health Services Board. She currently serves on the steering committee for the new Bailey Family Center for Caring, Community Hospice of Northeast Florida’s newest inpatient center, to be located on the campus of Flagler Hospital. A resident of St. Johns County for eight years, she is interested in photography, reading, investment club, pilates, yoga, and Autism Speaks.

Betty B. Frederick currently serves as the manager of the new Bookmobile-Extension Services Department with the St. Johns County Public Library System. Before joining the St. Johns County Public Library System, she was a library consultant for the Florida Department of State, State Library of Florida, for 21 years. Frederick earned her master’s degree in library science and public management certification from Florida State University and bachelor’s degree in library science and English from Florida A&M University, Tallahassee. She has served on numerous service boards, including the American, Florida, and Southeastern Library Associations; Florida Literacy Coalition; Florida Department of Education Policy Academy Team; Florida Adult and Community Education Literacy Advisory Board; and the Florida Endowment for the Humanities Advisory Board. Her husband, Art Frederick, serves as deputy director of the Southeast U.S. National Park Service.

Donna Kelley currently works as sales manager for Coastal Realty. She brings her 30 plus years of experience in retail and marketing to the Board, having owned a chain of retail stores for over 30 years and served on the Disney Wedding Board for five years as she helped launch their Destination Weddings wedding chapel. She has been a resident of St. Johns County for ten years, working in this area as a realtor. She is interested in concentrating her expertise for the Children’s Museum in the areas of marketing and fundraising.

John Reardon is a Reverse Mortgage Specialist with 1st Metropolitan Mortgage. A resident of St. Johns County for 20 years, he is a former city commissioner for the City of St. Augustine and a former county commissioner for St. Johns County. In addition to serving as PTO Treasurer for Murray Middle School, he has helped spearhead projects such as SWING Park in downtown St. Augustine, the Skate Park at Treaty Park, the St. Johns County Amphitheatre, and Splash Park in St. Augustine Beach. John holds business and psychology degrees from Middlesex Community College (Edison, NJ) and St. Johns River Community College here in St. Augustine. He is a state-licensed insurance agent in life, health, and variable annuities.

Howard C. Serkin is a principal with Business Valuation, Inc. and Heritage Capital Group, Inc., located in Jacksonville. In addition to his teaching and lecturing experiences as the executive-in-residence and a visiting professor at the University of North Florida’s College of Business Administration, he lectures extensively on a number of financial topics including corporate turnarounds, mergers and acquisitions, business valuations, financial restructurings, and bankruptcy. His board service is extensive; highlights include the Board of Directors of the Museum of Science and History (vice president), the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville (president), University of North Florida Foundation Board of Trustees (president), and, currently, the Jacksonville Museum of Contemporary Art Board of Trustees. He is a Florida native and resides in Ponte Vedra Beach.

Paul K. Williamson is the public affairs director for the City of St. Augustine. A resident of St. Johns County for 35 years, he first came to St. Augustine as a student attending Flagler College. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English, studied creative writing at Florida State University, and returned to Flagler College as a visiting instructor of English. For more than 12 years, he served as director of event management for the American Culinary Federation, and served two years as director of tourism for the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce before joining the City of St. Augustine in 2000. His interest in the continuing cultural development of the St. Augustine community led him to become involved with the Children’s Museum of St. Johns.